This year, we’ve introduced our Intermediate Bushcraft Course. This course is designed to help you to improve your bushcraft knowledge and practical ability. It is a great progression for all of those that have taken part in our accredited Foundation in Bushcraft and Wilderness Living Skills Level 2 Course.  

 Our intermediate bushcraft course runs over five days and provides the foundation for intermediate to longer term living in the woods. This blog looks at what you will learn on the course and how this provides you with knowledge for intermediate-term living in the woods.

As always, feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

What will I learn on the course?

Bushcraft courses from Wildway Bushcraft

 

In short, too much to cover in just one blog! More broadly speaking though our intermediate bushcraft course will cover the following topics; skinning and butchery of large game, primitive food preservation techniques including smoking and curing, how to make glues, long-term shelter building, green woodworking, spoon carving, advanced fire lighting, traps and snares, foraging, basketry and much, much more.

We can’t possibly cover all of these topics in this blog but we will touch on a few of them in the sections below. The best way to learn these skills though is to sign up for our Intermediate Bushcraft Course.

 

Long-term shelter building

Intermediate bushcraft course

On our intermediate bushcraft course, you will be living in the woods for five days. This requires that you build a longer term shelter, we will also look at shelters for winter survival.

By the end of our course, you will have a shelter that is not only wind and waterproof but that is also equipped with a bed, a stool, and a table to work off. Remember, our intermediate bushcraft course is designed so that you can unlock your ability to thrive in the wilderness.

It is not a survival course! Instructors from Wildway will be on hand to give you advice, assistance and more than a few cups of tea and coffee.

 

Large game butchery

Large game butchery

While our IOL accredited Weekend Bushcraft Course covers the butchery of small animals and birds, our intermediate bushcraft course covers, in more detail, the butchery of large game.

In this case, it is likely to be a deer, one of the most commonly available large game animals in the UK. Our course is designed to provide a complete overview of woodland living, therefore the large game butchery lessons will also cover the skinning of large game and the preservation of food using primitive skills. Read on to find out more about primitive smoking techniques.

Primitive smoking techniques

Primitive smoking and curing techniques are just one of the elements of wilderness living that you will learn on our intermediate bushcraft course. These are some of the oldest techniques for preserving meat and fish and help you to maximise your food supplies.

Advanced fire lighting

advanced fire lighting

Building on from the fire lighting techniques we demonstrate and teach on our weekend bushcraft course our intermediate bushcraft course covers more advanced techniques. This includes traditional fire lighting methods, including the bow drill, and teaches this technique from a complete basis – from wood selection to getting an ember. Our instructors work closely with you to help you get the most out of your time in the woods.

Traps, snares, and foraging

Living in the woods on an intermediate to long-term basis means being able to find, catch and prepare your own food. We will cover trapping, snaring and foraging so that you are better equipped for living in the UK woods on a long-term basis.

Book your place

Book your intermediate place

Our Intermediate Bushcraft Course runs from 24th to 28th of September. Places are £335 for the entire week. If you would like to discuss payment plans or the opportunity to put down a deposit and then pay the outstanding balance later, please contact John Boe on john@wildwaybushcraft.co.uk.

We’ve just got back from another fantastic canoeing expedition along the river Spey in Scotland.

In case you don’t know, each year we offer a guided canoe and bushcraft expedition along the beautiful river Spey. Paddling from Loch Insch all the way down to Spey Bay and wild camping along the trail. We offer land-based bushcraft courses that paddlers can take part in, but everyone is also welcome to just sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.  

These trips are always corkers and this year was no exception. Here’s a selection of photos, images, and thoughts from the trip…

 

Canoeing the Spey

Bush craft and canoeing

Hazel approves of the tarp set up.

Our 2018 river Spey canoeing expedition gets off to a strong start. Tarps are incredibly useful and light-weight bits of kit, we camped under them the whole way. You can read our review of the DD Tarp here, or learn about tarp set-ups here.

 

First fire of the trip

Bushcraft fire lighting on canoeing trip

First fire of the trip

 

There’s always something special about the first fire of the trip, even more so when it’s on the banks of the beautiful river Spey. Learn more about bushcraft and fire lighting in our blog posts here and here.

 

Last minute canoeing prep

Canoeing prep

Hazel helping out with some last minute canoeing prep.

Just double and triple checking everything before we set off on our fantastic adventure. Learn more about packing for a long distance canoeing trip here.

 

Morning brew

bushcraft and canoeing in Scotland

Can’t beat a morning brew.

It doesn’t get much better than the first brew of the morning, in a hammock, in Scotland.

Another day on the river

Canoeing preparation

Getting ready to hit the river

After cups of tea, it’s time to get on the river. Learn about navigating on Scotland’s rivers in this blog post here.

 

 

 

Brief pause

canoeing and bushcraft on the river spey scotland

Taking a little break

Just us and the river. You can’t beat it.

Stunning scenery

Stunning views from our bushcraft camp

Takes your breath away.

Stunning views canoeing in Scotland

And another shot

 

 

Navigation is essential

Canoeing and bushcraft navigtion

Hazel knows where she’ going.

Hazel leading the way.

 

Gearing up for some white water

 

This stretch of water is ‘affectionately’ known as ‘The Washing Machine’.

Relaxing on the river

Canoeing on the Spey

Gentle paddling

Some of the guys taking enjoying the river.

 

Dinner is served

Firepot Outdoor Food.

Delicious!

Firepot, who are in no way formally associated with Wildway Bushcraft, produce some fantastic stuff. You can find out all about them here.

The end of our epic trip

Canoeing into Spey bay

The end of our epic trip

Our epic trip ends in Spey bay. A fantastic expedition with a great group of people. If you’d like to reserve your place on our 2019 expedition click on the link below.

BOOK YOUR SPACE ON 2019’S TRIP NOW

 

When choosing a spot on which to have your campfire it is best to make sure that it is close to a water source or that you have plenty of water to hand. This will come in handy when it comes to clearing up your fire in the morning.Bushcraft is about existing in harmony with nature, not about overcoming or conquering it. This harmony means working with what nature has made available and not damaging it, unless absolutely necessary. This is particularly true when it comes to fire lighting. Campsites and woods are often littered with the remains of fires, charred ground and, more often than not, tin cans and the remains of meals.

In this blog, we’re going to look at the bushcraft skill of fire lighting without damaging the surrounding environment. As always, feel free to read the whole blog or click on the links below to skip to the section that interests you the most.

 Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more. 

Minimising your impact 

light a fire leave no trace


In reality, any interaction with the natural world is going to alter it in some way. From gathering dead wood to make a fire through to digging a latrine our very existence in nature, which we are part of, alters it in some way. As
bushcraft practitioners, however, we need to ensure that we minimise our inevitable impact on the natural world.

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Preparing your fire 

Leave no trace
When it comes to leaving no trace of your fire it is all about thinking ahead. This section shows how you make sure that you minimise your impact on the environment with a little bit of prior planning.

  • Ensure that you’re close to a water source
    When choosing a spot on which to have your campfire it is best to make sure that it is close to a water source or that you have plenty of water to hand. This will come in handy when it comes to clearing up your fire in the morning.
  • Choosing your materials
    When it comes to choosing materials with which to light your fire you should look for those that not only minimise your impact on the natural world but, also, of course, are suitable for fire lighting. Look for dead standing wood rather, than cutting anything off trees; not only is this good etiquette but also green, recently cut wood will not easily burn. When collecting firewood it is important to correctly gauge the amount that you need;  come the morning you don’t want to leave a smoldering pile of half burned logs.

Prepare your fire lighting materials in advance so that you are not scrabbling around for extra materials once your fire is going.

 

  • Preparing the ground
    After having gathered your firewood, it’s time to prepare the ground.  Begin by clearing the ground of all dead leaves and debris. Lay down a base of dead and dry wood, around a few centimetres in diameter. This base will not only improve the air flow to the fire but will also protect your kindling from the damp ground.

Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more

Clear up after the fire

Leave no trace when wild camping
After having had your fire it is time to clean it up. Having carefully gauged the amount of wood that you will need on the fire you should be left with only a few embers in the morning, not half-burned logs.

 

  • Douse the embers
    Using the water that we mentioned earlier, dowse the embers. After having covered them in water put your hands into the mix to check that the ground below is cool.
  • Distribute the ashes
    Having checked that the ashes are cool scatter them in the area surrounding the campsite. Be sure to scatter them well, don’t dump them all in the same place.
  • Cover up the site of the campsite
    Having distributed the ashes cover up the place where your campfire was with surrounding materials. Do this is a way that is fitting with the natural environment.

Key pieces of kit

Here are some pieces of kit that you might find useful when out and about in the woods.Please note that, with the exception of Bear Blades and Bushcraft – A Family Guide: Fun and Adventure in the Great Outdoors, Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the products or manufacturers listed below; we don’t get anything from them if you choose to buy anything.

  • Knives
    Bushcraft knife Bear BladesWildway Bushcraft uses Bear Blades.
    “Constructed from superb quality D2 steel this knife is ideal for bushcraft and wood crafting. Our most popular knife due to its versatility and functionality, suited to tough daily use in the woods.”
    http://bearblades.co.uk/

  • Bushcraft – A Family Guide: Fun and Adventure in the Great Outdoors
    bushcraft a family guide Whether it is a mini adventure into the woods and countryside, a camping trip or simply exploring your own back garden, it’s hard to get enough outdoors time, so what better way to do that than with the art of bushcraft? This beautifully illustrated book written by Wildway Bushcraft’s John Boe alongside Owen Senior, contains everything that both children and adults need to know to have fun and be safe in the outside world, including instructions on building shelters, foraging, tracking, tying knots, navigation and much more!
    Buy it on Amazon here
  • Fallkniven DC4Fallkniven DC4This diamond/ceramic whetstone is perfect for use in the field.  
    https://www.fallkniven.com/en/knife/dc4/ 
  • Tarps
    Tarp set-ups, how to set up a tarp from Wildway Bushcraft

    Here at Wildway Bushcraft we’re big fans of DD Hammocks and regularly use their 3 x 3 tarp; here’s what DD has to say about it.
    “ DD Tarp 3×3 offers reliable protection wherever you go. Its 19 reinforced attachment points offer a huge number of setup options, and it’s the tarp of choice for bushcraft & survival schools, the military and countless wild campers worldwide!”
    https://www.ddhammocks.com/ 
  • Axe
    Gransfor Bruks Small Forset Axe

    Copyright Gransfor Bruks

    John Boe, owner and founder of Wildway Bushcraft use the Gransfors Bruk Small Forset Axe which weighs in at only 900 gram (2lbs) and is small enough to fit in a rucksack whilst still being powerful enough to do most jobs.
    https://www.gransforsbruk.com/en/product/gransfors-small-forest-axe/

Further reading

Read more about the topics covered in this blog via the links below:

 

Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more

Spring is in the air and nature is blooming. In this blog we’re going to take a look at five key trees for bushcraft in the UK. We’ll also cover some common bushcraft uses for these trees. As always, feel free to read the entire blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.

Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more.  

Bushcraft and nature 

Trees for bushcraft


Unlike what is shown on some popular TV shows, bushcraft is not about overcoming or conquering nature; it is about living in harmony with it. Key to living in harmony with nature is understanding it, particularly when it comes to the trees around you. By knowing the names and uses for the trees which you come into contact with your time in the woods will be much more enjoyable and productive.

Silver Birch

Trees for bushcraft Silver Birch

One of the most useful trees when it comes to bushcraft the Silver Birch is easily identified by its white bark. Silver Birch often hybridises with the downy birch, the latter of which is, in terms of the UK, most commonly found in Scotland.

  • Bushcraft uses for the Silver Birch
    One of the most versatile trees in terms of bushcraft. The Silver Birch can be tapped for refreshment in early spring (for more information about tapping a silver birch read our blog here [link to: How to tap a Silver Birch]. The bark is also an excellent fire lighting resource, to learn more about using birch bark for fire lighting watch our video below.

  • Lighting a fire using birch bark

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Hazel

Hazel trees for bushcraft

 

Hazel is native to the UK, when it is not coppiced (as they often are) hazel can reach heights of 12 metres. In ancient mythology, a rod of hazel was used to protect against and ward off evil spirits.   Hazel is an incredibly springy wood and can easily be bent into a variety of shapes, which as we shall see, makes it excellent for bushcraft.

Alder

Alder trees for bushcraft

Alder is native to Britain although it is also found as far East as Siberia. Alder is known for its role in improving the fertility of the soil in which it grows. This is due to the bacterium found in the roots. This bacterium, Frankia Alni absorbs nitrogen from the air and makes it available to the tree. The tree then provides sugars to the bacterium which it produces through photosynthesis.


Common Ash

Ash tree

The Common Ash, also known as the European Ash or simply the Ash is native throughout mainland Europe. When fully grown, Ash trees can grow to heights of 35 metres and live for around 400 years. Ash trees provide homes and/or food for a variety of species such as bullfinches, owls, redstarts as well as a variety of caterpillars and moths.

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Hawthorn
Hawthorn

Hawthorn is a native tree to the UK. The Hawthorn tree is also known as the May-tree, as it flowers in this month. For an interesting pub quiz fact, Hawthorn is the only tree in the UK to be named after the month in which in flowers

 

Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more.  

Key pieces of kit

Here are some pieces of kit that you might find useful when out and about in the woods.
Please note that, with the exception of Bear Blades and Bushcraft – A Family Guide: Fun and Adventure in the Great Outdoors, Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the products or manufacturers listed below; we don’t get anything from them if you choose to buy anything.

  • Knives
    Bushcraft knives
    Wildway Bushcraft use Bear Blades.
    “Constructed from superb quality D2 steel this knife is ideal for bushcraft and wood crafting. Our most popular knife due to its versatility and functionality, suited to tough daily use in the woods.”
    http://bearblades.co.uk/ 
  • Bushcraft – A Family Guide: Fun and Adventure in the Great Outdoors
    bushcraft a family guide
    Whether it is a mini adventure into the woods and countryside, a camping trip or simply exploring your own back garden, it’s hard to get enough outdoors time, so what better way to do that than with the art of bushcraft? This beautifully illustrated book written by Wildway Bushcraft’s John Boe alongside Owen Senior, contains everything that both children and adults need to know to have fun and be safe in the outside world, including instructions on building shelters, foraging, tracking, tying knots, navigation and much more!Buy it on Amazon here 
  • Fallkniven DC4
    Fallkniven DC4
    This diamond/ceramic whetstone is perfect for use in the field.  
    https://www.fallkniven.com/en/knife/dc4/
  • Tarps
    DD Tarp and HammockHere at Wildway Bushcraft we’re big fans of DD Hammocks and regularly use their 3 x 3 tarp; here’s what DD has to say about it. “ DD Tarp 3×3 offers reliable protection wherever you go. Its 19 reinforced attachment points offer a huge number of setup options, and it’s the tarp of choice for bushcraft & survival schools, the military and countless wild campers worldwide!”
    https://www.ddhammocks.com/
  • Axe

    Gransfor Bruks Small Forset Axe

    Copyright Gransfor Bruks


    John Boe, owner and founder of Wildway Bushcraft use the Gransfors Bruk Small Forset Axe which weighs in at only 900 gram (2lbs) and is small enough to fit in a rucksack whilst still being powerful enough to do most jobs.   https://www.gransforsbruk.com/en/product/gransfors-small-forest-axe/

Further reading

Read more about the topics covered in this blog via the links below:

 

Join our weekend bushcraft course and learn the art of fire lighting, shelter building, water sourcing and more.
Click here to learn more.  

Spring is a great time to refresh your bushcraft skills and despite the recent cold snap, Spring is very much on its way.  With nature bursting into life once more and the days growing longer it is time to dust off your kit, or put away your winter kit (!) and brush-up on some bushcraft essentials. With that in mind here are some key bushcraft skills that you can brush up on.

As always, feel free to skip to the section that interests you the most or read the whole blog. 

Bushcraft skills refresh your bushcraft skills with WIldway bushcraft

Tarp setups

Warmer weather brings with it the time for tarps and bivvy bags. Lightweight and easy to set-up tarps and bivvy bags give you the chance to sleep in places that you wouldn’t be able to pitch a tent. The fact that they’re lightweight also means that you can cover further distances when out walking.

 

Learn more about tarp set-ups for solo campers and couples in our blog here.

 

Tarp set-ups, how to set up a tarp from Wildway Bushcraft

What to look for when buying a tarp

Tarps are generally pretty tough and versatile. You can’t go far wrong with most of the major brands or with an ex-army surplus. For more detail though we have got a little buyer’s guide below. 

Choosing the correct size of tarp 

When choosing a tarp for camping it is best to look for one that is the correct size for your needs. A 3 x 3 tarp will be perfectly sufficient for one person and, with the right set-up and a bit of cozying up, suitable for two.  For those camping in larger groups, it is worth considering whether you would be better off getting several smaller tarps rather than one large one. 

Choose one with multiple attachment points

Generally speaking, the more attachment points on the tarp the more versatile your set-up. The DD 3×3 tarp has, for example, 19 attachment points. 

Our review of the DD 3 x 3 Tarp  

The guys at Wildway Bushcraft have been using the DD 3×3 Tarp for a while now and I thought I would let you know our thoughts. The tarp has been used in all weather conditions throughout the year for all of our bushcraft courses in Dorset and Hampshire and we are very impressed.” 

Read our full review of the DD 3 x 3 Tarp here.  

Knife Sharpening

Refresh your bushcraft skills with Wildway Bushcraft

 

Spring is not only the perfect time to hone your bushcraft skills, it is also the perfect time to hone your tools.

Here at Wildway Bushcraft, we’re not too hung-up on knives. We know that some people get very attached to them but to us, they are tools; and like the rest of our tools, we want our knives to perform to the highest possible standard.

Learn more about knife sharpening, shelter building, foraging and
more in our
weekend bushcraft course.

What kit do you need for sharpening your knife?

Aside from your knife (obviously), there are just a few items that you need to get it razor sharp. If you’re sharpening indoors then a good set of water stones are perfect for the job.  If you’re out in the field then a simple sharpener such as the DC 4 from Fallkniven will do the job just fine.

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How to sharpen a bushcraft knife  

The video below was part of our Facebook live series if you want to have a say in the videos we put out then join our Facebook group

Watch our video on how to sharpen a knife here

Posted by Wildway Bushcraft on Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Looking after your axe

Looking after your axe bushcraft skills from Wildway Bushcraft

An axe is one of the most useful pieces of bushcraft kit that you can have with you; possibly even more useful than a knife (depending on the situation).

Spring is the perfect time to work on your axe skills.  A high level of axe skills will make a lot of other bushcraft skills easier – shelter building, fire lighting and even spoon carving.  

Looking after your axe

Perfecting your axe skills begins with knowing how to look after your axe. A properly looked after axe will not only last you years but will also be easier to use; like a knife, a blunt axe is more dangerous than a sharp axe. For more information on how to look after you axe see our blog post here

Video – splitting birch

Having honed your axe it’s time to put it to the test. In the video below Wildway Bushcraft show how to split a birch with control and precision.

Control splitting birch. Very satisfying!

Posted by Wildway Bushcraft on Saturday, 3 June 2017

Foraging in spring in the UK

Nettles (Urtica dioica) wild bushcraft food in the UK

Nettles (Urtica dioica)

Spring in the UK is the perfect time to refresh your foraging, plant and tree identification skills. Remember though that the golden rule of foraging is to never take more than you need and to respect the environment.  

Learn more about knife sharpening, shelter building, foraging and
more in our
weekend bushcraft course.

 

Learn more about foraging in the spring in the UK in our blog posts here.  


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Key pieces of kit

Here are a few pieces of kit that we mentioned on this blog. Have a look below and feel free to buy them via the links below. Keep in mind that, with the exception of Bear Blades,  Wildway Bushcraft is not associated with any of the products or manufacturers listed below; we don’t get anything from them if you choose to buy anything.

Knives

Refresh your bushcraft skills with Wildway Bushcraft

Wildway Bushcraft use Bear Blades.
“Constructed from superb quality D2 steel this knife is ideal for bushcraft and wood crafting. Our most popular knife due to its versatility and functionality, suited to tough daily use in the woods.”
http://bearblades.co.uk/ 

Fallkniven DC4

DC4

This diamond/ceramic whetstone is perfect for use in the field.  
https://www.fallkniven.com/en/knife/dc4/ 

Axe

Gransfor Bruks Small Forset Axe

Copyright Gransfor Bruks

John Boe, owner, and founder of Wildway Bushcraft use the Gransfors Bruk Small ForestAxe which weighs in at only 900 gram (2lbs) and is small enough to fit in a rucksack whilst still being powerful enough to do most jobs.

Hem

Tarp

Copyright DD Hammocks

For an entry level bushcraft tarp we recommend the DD 3 X 3 tarp.
https://www.ddhammocks.com/ 

Further reading

Click on the arrows below to see more blog posts that will be of interest.

Tarp set-ups

Tarp set-ups, how to set up a tarp from Wildway Bushcraft

Top tips for tarp set-ups.

Look after your axe

Looking after your axe bushcraft skills from Wildway Bushcraft

How to look after your bushcraft axe.

Foraging in the UK

Foraging in the UK

Foraging in the UK.

Learn more about knife sharpening, shelter building, foraging and
more in our
weekend bushcraft course.


 

Other bushcraft courses

Click on the title of the slides below to see our other fantastic courses.

 

 

In this week’s blog post we will look at fire lighting in winter. We will look at the importance of being able to light a fire in winter, some useful bits of kit to take with you, the importance of using deadwood and how to create firesticks. Please feel free to read the whole blog post of skip to the section that interests you the most.


If you would like to learn more about fire lighting and friction fire lighting then why not join our one-day friction fire lighting course.  

Click here for more information

This blog looks at fire lighting in the UK winter, not the boreal forest, so we won’t be looking at fire lighting in mountains of snow.

 

The importance of being able to light a fire in the winter

Winter is the perfect time to perfect your fire lighting techniques. Not only will you really appreciate the benefits of a fire when the temperature outside is plummeting and the light is fading – you will also test yourself, wood will be damp and cold. But, before you start trying to light a fire in the winter, you need to ask yourself…

Should you attempt to light a fire at all?

Before you attempt to light a fire in winter time you need to consider the position of your group and your skills. While a fire in winter can be a real morale booster, failing to light one can also have the opposite effect. What is more, choosing to light a fire in winter when you’re exhausted, cold and wet can leave you more exposed to the elements. If you’ve any doubt about your ability to light a fire in these conditions then it can be best to wait in your shelter, tent or sleeping bag until you’ve warmed up enough to give fire lighting another go.

Should you attempt to light a fire in winter

What to bring with you?

Perhaps the most useful bit of kit you can bring with you is an axe. A well looked after axe will serve you better than a knife in many situations. To keep your axe in tip top condition read our blog on looking after your axe. Another useful bit of kit that you can bring with you is a folding saw, such as the Laplander folding saw. In addition, a firesteel and some strike anywhere matches are always a good idea.

The importance of using deadwood

When lighting a fire in the winter, or at any time come to that, it is important to only use standing deadwood. Bushcraft is about harmony with nature, not damaging it. Besides, greenwood will be far too damp to burn effectively.

Getting ready to light your fire

With the above considerations in mind, it is now time to get ready to light your fire.

Choosing a location for your fire

Successful fire lighting in winter, as well as at any other time, depends on preparation. Preparation begins with location. Clear the ground of snow or ice and be careful not to light your fire under any branches laden with snow or ice.   

Build your fire off the floor

Layer the floor where you intend to start your fire with sticks of about finger thickness. This will protect your fire from the floor and the floor from the fire. Be sure to dig through any snow and reach the ground before layering your fire – otherwise, if you light your fire on top of the snow then as it burns it will melt the snow and slowly sink into it.

Gathering materials

When gathering materials for winter fire lighting always gather more than you need, much, much more. Remember that in order to find dry dead wood you may need to look outside of your immediate area. Gather thin sticks that break easily when you attempt to snap them – these should be about matchstick thin. From there gather more deadwood that should be about finger thickness. Once again these should be much more than you need – several armfuls.  

 

Learn how to light a fire using friction in our one-day friction fire lighting course.  
Click here for more information. 

 

Creating firesticks

One of the biggest issues facing you when trying to light a fire in the UK winter is the fact that the deadwood around you, especially those that are around arm thickness, could be sodden wet. In this situation , fire sticks are a (literal) life saver.  Firesticks are, essentially, pieces of wood around the length of the distance from your middle finger to your elbow. The wood should be split, lengthwise, into four. Using your knife you can then shave ‘feathers’ into the wood, these go from long curls to very short scrapings.

Learn how to make firesticks by watching our video below:

 

 

Using birch bark

Birch bark is one of the best tinders out there. Due to its high oil content, it will burn for a long time and at a high temperature even when moderately wet. Remember though, only ever take birch bark from dead trees – never cut bark off a living tree.

Watch our video to learn how to light a fire using birch bark and a fire steel.

Perfect your fire lighting techniques – sign-up for our one-day friction fire lighting course and learn to make fire using nothing but your knife, wood, and your wits – click here.
Learn more about bushcraft with weekend bushcraft courses in the UK from Wildway Bushcraft

In our mind there is little better than sitting around a campfire; as Henry David Thoreau said, “The fire is the main comfort of the camp, whether in summer or winter, and is about as ample at one season as at another. It is as well for cheerfulness as for warmth and dryness”. With that in mind, this week we’re going to take a look at some tools for fire lighting that you can prepare before your trip, how to practice at home and give you a bit of an introduction to tinderboxes. Remember, you can either read the whole blog or skip to the part that interests you the most.

 


The best way to get started with friction fire lighting is by taking our one-day friction fire lighting course.
Click here for more information and to book your spot.
Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft

 

A word on preparation


Remember the old Boy Scout motto? Well being prepared is key to successful fire lighting. Gathering the right kind of tinder, building your fire in the correct manner and approaching fire lighting with the correct attitude will all help when it comes to getting your fire going. Here are a few things that can help you when it comes to being prepared to light your fire.

 

How to make char cloth

Fire lighting in the wind and rain with Wildway Bushcraft

Charcloth is a great favourite when it comes to fire lighting.  It is essentially ‘charred’ cloth and has been used throughout history in primitive fire lighting techniques. Once the char cloth has been created it will catch fire with the slightest spark.

While it can theoretically be made from natural materials, such as fungus, this blog is going to focus on making char cloth out of cotton.

Making the char tin 

Making char cloth begins with making the char tin. In order to make your char tin you need to find a metal tin deep and wide enough to store strips of cloth in it. An old tobacco tin or the like will suffice. The tin needs to be airtight or as close to as makes no difference. Make a hole in the centre of the lid of the tin – remember, only make the one hole. The hole only needs to be about 1/2mm wide; this step is vital as without it gases will build up in the tin and it could explode.

Put your cloth in the char tin

The cloth that you put in the char tin must be 100% cotton. An old TT-shirt will suffice. The cloth needs to be cut up into small squares and layered gently into the tin. Don’t cram it in, it needs to be gently put in with air between each of the pieces of fabric.

Put your cloth and char tin in the fire

The fire in which you put your char tin need not be a roaring inferno. Rather, it should be a either a gentle flame or the embers of the fire. Watch the char tin and you will see smoke begin to billow out of it – this is totally fine and what you want so don’t worry about it. Wait for the smoke to stop appearing from the hole at the top of tin, then remove it from the fire.

Whatever you do, don’t take the lid of straight away. This is because the tin will be red hot but also because opening it straight away might cause the air to rush in and to re-ignite the fire.

 Remove the lid from the tin

Remove the lid from your char tin and look at the cloth inside it. It should be completely black, soft and not too fragile. You should be able to take out each piece of cloth and shake it gently without it crumbling.

Light it up

Your char cloth should now be able to ignite as soon as any spark falls on it. Test it at home and then practice using it to light fires in different conditions. Remember though that even if you’re using char cloth you still need to build your fire properly – just because you’re using char cloth doesn’t mean that you can go straight in and start a fire using large thick or damp logs.

The best way to get started with friction fire lighting is by taking our one-day friction fire lighting course.
Click here for more information and to book your spot.   

Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft

 

Vaseline/cotton wool balls

Vaseline and cotton wool are a great tool for getting a fire going in the wind and rain. They are easy and inexpensive to make and can easily be made at home. Done correctly, vaseline and cotton wool balls should light with a single spark.

How to make vaseline/cotton wool balls

Vaseline and cotton wool balls are really easy to make. Simply get the cotton wool pads that are used for makeup removal and the like. Pull them apart so that the soft, fluffy, inside is accessible, scrunch them up into small balls. You can then either put these balls into your tinderbox as they are, along with a small tub of vaseline, such as you would use for chapped lips. When it comes to starting your fire you can smother them with vaseline, drop a spark on them and hey presto! Alternatively, you can smother them with vaseline before putting them in your tinder box.

The best way to get started with friction fire lighting is by taking our one-day friction fire lighting course.
Click here for more information and to book your spot.  

Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft

 

Tinderboxes

char cloth, fire, Steel striker and flint

In this section, we’re going to have a little look at tinderboxes, the history of them and what you should put in them.


A short history of the tinderbox

Until the invention of matches and their commonplace usage, the tinderbox was the primary method of fire lighting. This was true of fire lighting in the home as well as in the wild. The tinderbox would contain a fire steel, a striker, and tinder – which would typically be char cloth or a bundle of fibrous wood.


Preparing your tinderbox

Making up a tinderbox can be great fun and is key to fire lighting in adverse conditions. You should include char cloth, as we showed you earlier, and perhaps some cotton wool balls/ vaseline or fibrous bark – birch is always a good place to start. You’ll also need a fire steel and striker. Here, we’re great fans of  Swedish fire steel, in the video below we show you how to light a birch bark using a Swedish military fire steel and birch bark.

Watch our video and learn how to light a fire using birch bark

 

The best way to get started with friction fire lighting is by taking our one day friction fire lighting course.
Click here for more information and to book your spot.  

Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft

Practicing fire lighting at home 

Practice, as they say, makes perfect. When it comes to lighting a fire in the wind and rain out in the wild practice is essential. Practicing lighting fires close to the comfort of your home in adverse conditions will help when it comes to doing for real out in the wild.  This goes for friction fire lighting, which we covered earlier this month and fire lighting through using aids such as char cloth.


What to look forward to next month


Winter bushcraft skills

Next month we will be looking at bushcraft skills for the winter months including; how to read the weather, fire lighting in winter, foraging and plant identification and what to look out for when it comes to hypothermia.

Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft

Welcome to this week’s blog post. This week we’re taking an in-depth look at that most impressive tool for friction fire lighting – the bow drill. We will be teaching you about the history of the bow drill, the theory behind its use, the component parts of the bow drill and the woods you need to make it. We will also be taking a look at natural cordage, troubleshooting and the mental attitude that it takes to succeed when using the bow drill.

Remember, you can read the whole thing or skip straight to the part that interests you the most.


The best way to get started with friction fire lighting is by taking our one-day friction fire lighting course.
Click here for more information and to book your spo
t.
Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft

An introduction to the bow drill – history and mechanical advantage

Bow drills date back about as far as the history of human civilisation. It’s believed that they were used as far back as the 4th and 5th millennium and examples of drills were also found in parts of the Indus Valley Civilisation (around 3300 – 1900 BCE in Northwest South Asia). Bow drills, one of the earliest forms of friction fire lighting were also used by native Americans, Eskimos and aborigines ins Alaska and Northern Canada.

While other friction fire lighting methods, such as the fire plough, potentially date back even earlier the bow drill gives the user a major mechanical advantage – in that the cord used with the bow turns the drill, rather than the drill being turned by the user’s hands.

If you’re not yet familiar with the basics of the bow drill then have a quick look at our blog –  introduction to friction fire lighting.

Why the UK focus? 

With this blog, we’re focusing on making and using a bow drill in the UK – where we are based.  That means the woods and cordage that we’re looking at will be readily available in the UK.

If you would like to learn more about friction fire lighting then sign up to our one day course.
Click here for more information and to book.

Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft

 

The theory behind the bow drill

The theory behind the bow drill is similar to the theory behind all friction fire lighting methods.  That is, grinding two combustible materials together until the friction takes the material beyond its auto-ignition temperature – creating an ember which is then used to ignite timber.  

Making your bow drill – component parts and wood


In the section below we will teach you how to make a bow drill, covering the component parts, suitable woods (and how to identify them), how to carve the hearth, the drill, and the bearing block. We will also provide you with an introduction to using natural cordage.

The component parts of the bow drill

The bow drill is composed of four main parts – the drill, the hearth, the bow and the bearing block. Take a look at our blog on an introduction to friction fire lighting where we introduce you to these components. Don’t worry – we’ll cover them in more detail below.

https://www.wildwaybushcraft.co.uk/product/one-day-friction-fire-lighting-course/

The different parts of the bow drill.



The drill

The drill should be around 20cm in length and between 2cm and 3cm in diameter and as straight as possible. The end of the drill that will be in contact with the hearth needs to be carved into a blunt point; while the end that is in contact with the bearing block needs to be carved to a sharper point – this will help to reduce the friction between the drill and the bearing block.

The hearth

The hearth is essentially a rectangular block. It should be made of the same wood as the drill and about as thick as the diameter of the drill, around 40mm wide and 30cm long.

The bow

We will be looking at the cordage needed for the bow in more detail further on in this blog. The body of the bow itself can be made of any wood that you have at hand. Unlike the wood that you would make a hunting bow out of the wood for the bowdrill needs to have as little spring in it as possible.  It needs to be slightly curved and should measure the length of your fingertips to sternum.

The bearing block

Carve the bearing block so that it fits comfortably in your hand. It can be made of any wood that you have at hand, even a stone with an indent will do.

Suitable woods for your bow drill  

Choosing a suitable wood is key to success when it comes to using a bow drill. The woods listed below are not an exhaustive list but a small sample of those that might be suitable when practicing bow drill in the UK.

  • Elder
  • Field Maple
  • Willow
  • Hazel
  • Birch
  • Sycamore

Identifying suitable woods for your bow drill

Bushcraft is all about living with nature, not about surviving despite it. One of the key bushcraft skills that anyone can have is the ability to identify the surrounding flora and fauna. This is not an exhaustive guide but a brief run through of how to identify the trees listed above.  

If you would like to learn more about friction fire lighting then sign up to our one day course.
Click here for more information and to book.

Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft


A note on wood: don’t take live wood. Look for dead wood that hasn’t started to decay yet, it should break free from the tree with relative ease – no need to use a knife.


Elder (sambucus nigra)
 

Sambucus Nigra


Leaves are feather shaped with around  5 -7 miniature leaflets. The edge of each of these is serrated and there may be what feels like hairs on the underside. Bark, on the more mature trees, takes on a deeply furrowed and cork-like appearance.

Field Maple (Acer campestre)


Acer campestreNative to the UK Field Maple trees can grow to up to 2o metres and live for up to 350 years. A deciduous tree, the leaves of a field maple are small, dark green and shiny with five lobes and rounded teeth. These fade to yellow before dropping off in the autumn.  Their bark is light brown and flaky and becomes corky with age. The twigs are slender brown and in autumn have small grey leaf buds that grow on long stems.

Willows (Salices)

Salix fragilis

Willow (Salix singular or Salice plural for those of us who like Latin) is a varied and complex genus with many different species recognised.  The Salix fragilis crack willow (pictured) is one of Britain’s largest native willows. Mature trees grow to around 25 metres, the bark is dark brown and as it ages deep fissures appear. The leaves on mature trees are hairless and shiny on the top, catkins will appear before the leaves.  

Hazel (Corylus avellana)


Native to the UK, Hazel is one of the most useful trees out there for bushcraft. In ancient mythology, a hazel rod is supposed to protect against evil spirits and the tree itself was, in medieval times, considered a symbol of fertility.  Male and female leaves live on the same tree, yellow male catkins appear around February before the leaves do. Hazel is often confused with Elm, however,  the leaves of hazel are soft to the touch – while elm leaves are roughly hairy.  

Birch – Silver Birch (Betula pendula)

Betula pendula

There are many types of Birch trees in the UK, one of the most useful in terms of bushcraft is the Silver Birch (Betula pendula). Mature trees can reach 30 metres in height, the bark is a white/silver colour and the leaves are small and triangular with a tooth edge – these are typically green but fade to yellow in the autumn.  

Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)

Acer pseudoplatanus

The sycamore is a non-native species to the UK. Though having been introduced at some point in the middle ages it is now naturalised. Mature trees can grow to around 35 metres and their lifespan can stretch to 400 years. The bark on mature trees becomes cracked and forms plates when it ages. On younger trees the bark is pinkish/grey and smooth to the touch.

Making your bow drill – carving

This next section is going to talk about how to carve a bow drill. Remember though that practice makes perfect – so keep trying even if it doesn’t work the first time around.

If you would like to learn more about friction fire lighting then sign up to our one day course.
Click here for more information and to book.

Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft

 

Carving the drill

When carving the drill piece of your set be sure to start with the straightest piece of wood that you can possibly find.  It should be around 2-3cm in diameter and around 20 cm long. The end that will be in contact with the hearth should be carved into a blunt point while the end that will be in contact with the bearing block should be carved into a narrower point (though not too sharp).

Carving the hearth

Square off three of the four sides to form a rectangle around 4 cm wide and 5mm thick. Narrow a depression into the hearth in the centre of the blog then, using the bow, wear down this depression into a smooth bore then cut a V shape extending towards and over the edge of the hearth.

Carving the bearing block

The bearing block should fit comfortably in your hand with a notch in which the top of the drill will sit.

Making the bow

The bow can, unlike the drill and the bearing block be made of any wood. It need not be springy, like an archery bow, but should be slightly curved.

Types of cordage

Cordage is key when it comes to your bow drill, earlier this month we looked at making a bow drill using paracord but today we’re going to look at using natural cordage.

An introduction to natural cordage


Natural cordage is, of course, the way that the bow drill would be have been used by people in primitive times.


Natural cordage from plants

Plants can be used for natural cordage with the bow drill. In the UK the stems of nettles can be used but creating cordage from nettles can be really rather labour intensive. However, making natural cordage from nettles can also be a rewarding experience. To learn more about how to make natural cordage have a look at our blog here . 

Natural cordage from animals

Sinew is one of the strongest natural cordages available. The tendon sinews of game that you’ve trapped or hunted, of course only in a survival situation, are are the most apt source of natural cordage. The sinew will need to be dried and prepared before it is ready for use. To learn more about natural cordage why not come on our weekend bushcraft course – click here for more information.  

Using your bow drill

Using your bow drill takes a lot of effort, both physical and mental but succeeding with it is highly rewarding. Here are a few tips to help you along your way.

Prepare your fire first 

Fire lighting with a bow drill should be approached in the same way as fire lighting with sparks. You need to prepare your tinder and kindling with the utmost care.


If you would like to learn more about friction fire lighting then sign up to our one day course.
Click here for more information and to book.

Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft


Troubleshooting

Making fire by friction takes a lot of time and a lot of practice, one of the best ways to learn how to make fire by friction is to get help from an expert instructor but if you want more advice read our blog on bow drill troubleshooting.


Mental attitude towards friction fire lighting

Friction fire lighting is not easy; maintaining a positive and strong mental attitude is key to success – this is particularly true when trying to light a fire by friction in the wet weather.  

 

Getting children involved with friction fire lighting

Friction fire lighting is a great way to get children started with bushcraft. While it might be a bit much to expect children to succeed with friction fire lighting from the off (or for anyone to do so for that matter) it can be a good way to show them elementary elements of friction fire lighting. For example, you could introduce children to tree and plant identification, cordage selection and even morals around trapping and skinning animals.

 

If you would like to learn more about friction fire lighting then sign up to our one day course.
Click here for more information and to book.

Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft

Friction fire lighting might be one of the most important bushcraft skills. Along with shelter building and the ability to source food and water, friction fire lighting is one of the basic building blogs to not only survival but also living comfortably in the woods.

The best way to learn friction fire lighting is to sign-up for a course with an experienced bushcraft instructor. Wildway Bushcraft offers a one-day friction fire lighting course – we run these courses whenever you like – just get in touch and let us know when suits you. Find out more information here.

In this blog, we introduce you to friction fire lighting, provide a brief history of this age-old skills, teach you some tips for identifying suitable woods and how to get children involved in friction fire lighting. Feel free to read the whole blog or skip to the section that interests you the most.



Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft

Friction Fire lighting the origin of civilisation

Friction fire lighting is nearly as old as humankind. Fire gave us the origin of our civilisation, evidence of deliberate exploitations of areas for fires dating back nearly 1.5 million years have been found in Africa, there are even suggestions that friction fire lighting could go back to an earlier date than this.

Two types of friction fire lighting techniques

Essentially, there are two types of friction fire drills, that is the bow drill and the hand drill. We will be looking at the bow drill in more detail later this month, so keep your eyes open for that blog post. In it, we will show you how to source wood, carve it into the shape that you want and it will even take a look at using natural cordage.


If you would like to 
learn more about friction fire lighting sign up to our one day course.

Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft

 

 

What’s the difference between the hand drill and the bow drill

The bow drill is, as the name suggests, a technique of friction fire lighting which involves  ‘drilling’ one piece of wood into another by means of spinning it using a ‘bow’. A hand drill, again as the name would suggest, involves using your hands (as opposed to the mechanical advantage of the bow) to drill one piece of wood into another.

 

Woods for friction fire lighting

Friction fire lighting begins and ends with choosing the correct woods. Choosing an unsuitable wood will mean that your efforts are doomed to failure before they’ve even begun. In the sections below we look at suitable woods for the bow drill and the hand drill.

Woods for bow drill

In this blog, we’re only going to be focusing on European woods. The best ones for bow drills are;

Elder
Field Maple
Willow
Hazel
Oak
Popular
Yew
Sycamore  

(this is not an exhaustive list and there are lots of other woods that could be suitable for making a bow drill).

It’s important not to use green wood when making your bow drill, these are too wet and won’t help you to produce heat. Ideally, you need dead wood that has not yet started to decay.

 

Oak tree for friction fire lightiing

Oak makes a good wood for friction fire lighting

 


Woods for hand drill

The following European woods are suitable for making a hand drill. Experiment with different combinations and see what works for you and of course, what is available in the environment in which you’re practicing.

Elder
Juniper
Pussy willow
Sycamore

Juniper for friction fire lighting

Juniper makes a good wood for hand drills

Getting started with the bow drill

Remember, practice makes perfect. One of the best ways of getting started or even perfecting your technique is to take part in a friction fire lighting course.

                                      Take part in our one-day friction fire lighting course – find out more here and start making fire by friction.

Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft

Anatomy of the bow drill

Not including the bark slab on which to collect the embers the bow drill is essentially composed of four main parts – the bearing block, the drill, the bow and the hearth.

https://www.wildwaybushcraft.co.uk/product/one-day-friction-fire-lighting-course/ 


The hearth and the drill should be carved from the woods that we’ve discussed above, the bow and bearing block can be made of any wood that you want to use.


The drill

The drill should be as straight as possible and ideally be between 2cm and 3cm in diameter and 20cm or so in length. The end that is making contact with the hearth e.g. the end that is creating friction needs to be a blunt point in order to maximise contact. The other end of the drill e.g. the end that is in contact with the bearing block needs to be carved into a sharp point – this will help it to reduce the friction against the bearing blog, making it easier for you.

The hearth

The hearth is essentially a rectangular block made of the same wood as the drill. It needs to be about 5mm thick, 40mm wide and a minimum of 30 cm long.

The bow

The bow can be made of any wood that you have at hand. It shouldn’t have much spring in it, and should be a bit longer than the length of your arm. For the purposes of this blog we’re going to assume that you’re using paracord – but we will be looking at natural cordage in next week’s blog so stay tuned.

The bearing block

The bearing block needs to be carved to fit comfortably in your hand. As with the bow it can be made of any wood that you have at hand. Carve a small depression in it for the pointed end of the drill that we discussed earlier.

Preparing your bow drill set

The next step is preparing the hearth board. Carve a small depression into the board about 4cm from the end (it doesn’t matter which end). Using the drill (see the photo at the start of this section) rotate the drill until the depression that you have recently carved begins smoking.

Carving the notch

The next step is critical to success. Cutting a notch in the hearth enables the hot dust that you are creating in the depression of the hearth to gather and collect in one place. The notch should be a basic V shape, extending from the outside of the board to the depression.  Place a piece of bark under the notch, allow the embers to collect there and then you’re ready to ignite your tinder.

If you’re having trouble getting an ember with your bow drill then read our blog on troubleshooting your bow drill technique.

 

Getting started with the hand drill

As with the bow drill, practice makes perfect for the hand drill. One of the best ways of getting started or to perfect your technique is to join us on our one day friction fire lighting course.


Join us on our one-day friction fire lighting course – click here.

Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft

 

The hand drill works on the same principles as the bow drill e.g. with friction. While the hand drill is easier to make than the bow drill,  it does lack  mechanical advantage and therefore is harder to master.


The drill

The length and width of your drill will come down to personal preference, experience and the type of wood that you are using. The drill should be around 40 cm to 75 cm long with a diameter somewhere between 9mm and 13mm. The drill, whatever the length, needs to be as straight as possible.


The hearth

The hearth should be made of one of the woods that we identified earlier in this blog. It should be made in a similar fashion to the hearth of the bow drill but made slightly shorter. Ideally, the hearth shouldn’t be too thick, around 1.5 cm should be enough.


The theory

Spin the drill between your hands applying a downward pressure into the hearth. As the smoke appears, increase the speed with which you are rotating the drill until you have produced a small ember.


If you want to learn more about friction fire lighting sign up to our one day course.

Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft

 

How to practice at home

A garden then it is a great place to practice friction fire lighting before heading out into the woods. When walking, look for suitable materials – practice carving them into the correct shape and applying the techniques at home.

Children and friction fire lighting

Friction fire lighting is a fun way to introduce children to more advanced elements of bushcraft. This does’nt mean that children have to make their own bow drills but you can start by introducing them to the appropriate trees.

 

 

Learn more about friction fire lighting – sign up for our one day course here.

Friction fire lighting from WIldway Bushcraft

Over the next four weeks, we will be looking at fires, fire lighting methods, materials, and tips. In this week’s blog, we’re taking a look at fire lighting in the wind and rain. We’ll talk through what you can do to prepare before leaving home, show you how to make feather sticks and teach you how to use a fire steel and birch bark to get your fire going.

We’re not going to be looking at friction fire lighting this week – but keep checking back in as we’ll be teaching you all about friction fire lighting and bow drills later in the month.

Remember, you can read the whole blog or skip to the sections that interest you using the links below:

Before we look at how to light fires in the wind and rain,  here’s a quick recap of what you should know when fire lighting in the UK.

A quick recap – fire lighting in the UK – safety and the law

 

Fire lighting in the UK - what you need to know



Remember, whenever you’re practicing bushcraft or camping in the UK you need to abide by the bylaws of the area.


Fire lighting and the law – England, Wales, Northern Ireland

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland you must have the landowner’s permission before lighting a fire.


Fire lighting and the law – Scotland

In Scotland, the outdoor access code states, “wherever possible, use a stove rather than light an open fire. If you do wish to light an open fire, keep it small, under control, and supervised – fires that get out of control can cause major damage, for which you might be liable. Never light an open fire during prolonged dry periods or in areas such as forests, woods, farmland, peaty ground or near to buildings or in cultural heritage sites where damage can be easily caused. Heed all advice at times of high risk. Remove all traces of an open fire before you leave.”

However, it is not just the law that needs to be taken into consideration when fire lighting.


Fire lighting – be wary of the conditions

Coniferous trees

Assuming that you’ve satisfied the above criteria then be mindful of your surroundings; note if the ground and surrounding area is particularly dry or going through a period of drought. Also look out for the potential of root fires. These are accidental fires caused by setting alight to shallow root systems – doing so can easily cause a fire to rapidly spread – this is a particular case with coniferous trees. We will talk more about location and preparation later on but try to clear the ground under where you’re about to have a fire, if the ground is peaty (such as on Dartmoor) then don’t light a fire at all – it has the potential to smolder underground and transform into a forest fire. Elevate your fire off the ground if at all possible and look out for any low-hanging branches above your fire which could ignite.
 

Fire lighting begins with preparation

The key to successful fire lighting, as with most things in life, is preparation. In this next section, we’re going to look at a few things that you can prepare to help you light a fire in the wind and rain.  

Preparing your fire lighting kit before your trip

Picture the scene, you went out walking the weather didn’t hold out and it has poured down. You had a great time but now you’re wet, your kit is wet and everything around you is wet. Luckily the rain has stopped and you’re back at your campsite (where you have the landowner’s permission to light a fire) and you’re keen to get the campfire roaring, dry out and start cooking your food. Here are some items that you can prepare at home to help you make this process much simpler.

Remember, preparation is not just about kit – practice these techniques and using this kit while in an ideal environment and you will be better prepared to use them in adverse conditions.

Tinder Boxes

Tinder boxes have a long and rich history. Flint and iron pyrites were used throughout Europe since pre-history. The famous  Otzi or Tyrolean Iceman, a well preserved natural mummy thought to date from around 3500 BCE,  was found carrying fungus (for tinder) and iron pyrites. Later, as we passed through the iron age,  basic firesteels came to replace the iron pyrites. Tinder boxes, which were used domestically as well as out on the trail, continued to be in common usage until the 18th century.

Preparing your tinderbox 

Here are some key considerations when preparing your tinderbox. Remember to choose a tin, look for the type that used to be considered an old cigarette tin. Make sure that it has a tight seal and will fit easily in your backpack. Remember, it is always worth carrying more than one method of fire lighting – consider taking matches (in a waterproof container), a firesteel and a cigarette lighter.


Producing sparks using a fire steel

A tinderbox should consist of a method of producing sparks and something to catch the sparks – e.g. tinder.
By far the best tool for producing sparks (in our opinion) is the LightMyFire Swedish firesteel – these can be picked up on Amazon for under a tenner. These firesteels, and many others, typically comes with a striker. If not you can fashion your own – part of an old hacksaw blade will work well. If you’ve a carbon steel knife then you can also use the back of this knife to strike your firesteel.


Catching sparks – natural materials

If natural materials are easy to hand then be sure to add them to your tinderbox before you set off.  If not, be sure to keep an eye out for them as you journey towards your campsite.  Some of the best tinders are dry grass, dead bracken and even bits of old birds’ nests (it should go without saying that you should only ever use empty birds’ nests – ideally those that have fallen to the ground). Other tinders include shavings from woods such as cedar bark, clematis bark and of course – every bushcraft person’s best friend – birch bark.

Learn how to light a fire using a fire steel and birch back

Watch our video here or click play on the video below. 


Catching sparks – other options

There are a few other things that you can put in your tinderbox to help you light a fire in the rain and wind. One of the favourites of which is cotton wool balls and Vaseline. Buy cotton wool pads and a small metal tin of vaseline (the type that you can use to treat chapped lips). If these are being stored in with natural tinder then it is best to prepare them at camp, however, if you wish to carry a separate tin for vaseline and cotton wool balls then you can prepare them before you leave the house. In order to prepare your cotton wool balls pull the cotton wool apart (to access the soft wool itself), then smear liberal doses of vaseline on the cotton wool; roll these into balls and you’re ready to go. These will easily ignite when showered with sparks from your fire steel.

Preparing your kit – matches

Matches are an easy and quick way of starting a fire. Choose strike anywhere matches (e.g. not the safety ones) when heading out into the woods. One of the best ways of keeping them dry is to remove the striking strip from the packet of matches, cut it into a circle and glue it to the inside of an old film canister (admittedly these are getting harder to find!) stick the matches inside the canister and seal it tight. For a belt and braces approach you can then put this canister in a zip-lock bag. It can be a good idea to carry several such canisters in different places – for example in your jacket pocket, side pocket and if there’s room in your tinderbox.

Practice makes perfect 

Remember, practice these techniques in as many conditions as you can while close to home – even if it’s just going out in the back garden. After all, practice makes perfect and you don’t want to be learning while you’re struggling to light a fire.

 


Practice your fire lighting techniques on a weekend bushcraft course with Wildway Bushcraft – find out more here.

Wildway Bushcraft fire lighitng course

Preparing your fire

For the purposes of this next section, we’re going to divide the blog into two parts- lighting fires using sparks (including matches) in adverse weather and lighting stoves in the same conditions.

Preparing your fire: location 

When it comes to lighting a fire in the wind and rain then the location is key. As we covered in our blog organisation in bushcraft, you should look for an area that is close to the materials that you will need for your fire. In addition, be sure to avoid shallow root systems and low hanging branches. In an ideal situation, you would also place your fire within relatively easy reach of a source of water.  Look for natural surroundings, such as rocks which could act as a shelter from the rain.

A note on rocks – if you’re placing your fire close to or on rocks then avoid flint and those that have been saturated with water (such as rocks from a riverbed) as these are likely to explode if they get too hot.

Preparing your fire: materials

When gathering materials for your fire in wet weather you may need to go slightly further afield from your immediate area to find kindling that is suitable.  Look around for kindling which may be drier, though being sheltered from the elements.

Feathersticks

One of the best tools for lighting a fire in adverse conditions are feathersticks. Being able to make these is a key skill which will serve you well in most conditions. Watch our video below to learn how to make feathersticks.

Learn how to carve feather sticks – watch our video here  

 


Kindling

When attempting to light a fire in wet and/or windy conditions it is worth doubling, or even trebling, up the amount of kindling that you would normally use to light a fire. Only add more wood when you see flames coming through the previous layer. If the wind/rain is particularly strong then it can be worth building a temporary canopy using materials to hand over the top of your fire.

Practice your fire lighting techniques on a weekend bushcraft course with Wildway Bushcraft – find out more here.

Wildway Bushcraft fire lighitng course

 

How to light a stove in the wind and rain

Lighting a gas or a meth stove in the wind and rain has some principles in common with lighting a fire in the same conditions. Look for natural features which can act as a shelter for your stove or try to construct a windbreak around it. If using rocks for the purposes of creating this windshield then avoid those that have been submerged in water or flint, as both of these are likely to explode if exposed to heat for a consistent amount of time – though this is a smaller risk with gas stoves than it is with fire.

If great care is taken then your stove can be used in the awning space of your tent – though obviously this is a fire risk and is not recommended by the manufacturer.

Tips for striking matches

Striking a match in the wind and rain is certainly a skill. Though it may be common practice to strike the match away from you when lighting candles and the like, it is better in bushcraft to strike towards you. This will allow you to cup your hands around the match and protect it from the wind.  Hold the match vertically, fire after all burns upwards, and then guide it carefully towards the flame.

 

Practice your fire lighting techniques on a weekend bushcraft course with Wildway Bushcraft 

find out more here.

Wildway Bushcraft fire lighitng course